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Article Published September 20, 2020

CIAC Officially Votes Down Full-Contact Fall Football; Other Sports Scheduled to Start

By Chris Piccirillo/Zip06.com

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) reaffirmed its decision to cancel the 11-on-11, full-contact football season for fall 2020, but also reversed an earlier decision that may allow the sport to be played during spring 2021. Meanwhile, the CIAC also said that it's continuing with its plan to play the fall season in other sports and is allowing full team practices to start this week in advance of the opening date of the campaign on Thursday, Oct. 1.

On Sept. 16, the CIAC held a Board of Control meeting at which it voted to finalize its
Sept. 3 decision to cancel 11-on-11 fall football due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was made in alignment with the Connecticut Department of Health (DPH) recommendation that football is a high-risk sport and should not be played this fall.

However, the CIAC Board of Control also stated that it will consider allowing competition at a later time for any sport that cannot hold its regularly scheduled season, such as football, provided that it does not negatively impact spring sports. This amendment comes three weeks after the CIAC's previous decision that any fall sport that is canceled in 2020 would not be played at a later time during the 2020-'21 school year. For now, the CIAC will continue recommending low- and moderate-risk activities in which football players can participate now that the traditional fall football season is officially off the table.

"CIAC made every effort to weigh all factors in this decision, including the passionate voices of students, parents, and school personnel and, ultimately, made the determination to align its decision with the recommendations of the governor's office and DPH to not hold high-risk sports at this time," said CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini. "In conversation with other state associations across the country, it was clear that a key factor in playing interscholastic football was alignment with the opinion of their state's governor and state health agency."

The CIAC had intended for football to be played with the other sports when it released its original plan to play the 2020 fall season on July 31. The regular season for football was slated to be six games. However, following the CIAC football committee's recommendation to move the football season to next spring, along with a recommendation from the state DPH to move football and girls' volleyball to the spring, the CIAC put all sports activities on pause.

In the last week of August, the CIAC resumed fall sports activities by allowing teams to participate in conditioning and non-contact skillwork in small groups. The CIAC also released an updated plan to play fall sports that included moving the first day of the regular season from Thursday, Sept. 24 to Oct. 1.

On Sept. 3, the DPH sent a letter to the CIAC stating that it was unlikely to support higher-
risk activities for the fall term. The next day, following a vote by its Board of Control, the CIAC announced that 11-on-11, full-contact football would not be played this fall in adherence with those DPH guidelines. The CIAC said that it would vet the appropriateness of the 7-versus-7 option for football recommended by the DPH as a possible moderate-risk activity.

Schools in New Haven and Bridgeport have decided to opt out of football since the sport falls into the higher-risk category. Neighboring states such as Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island have moved their high school football seasons to the spring.

The City of New Haven recently announced that its teams will not be participating in girls' volleyball during the fall. Volleyball is another sport that is considered higher risk by the DPH, which has recommended for volleyball matches to be played outdoors. The CIAC decided that volleyball will be played indoors this fall with the modification of having the athletes wear masks during matches.

The CIAC stated last week that it is permitting girls' volleyball, field hockey, boys' soccer, girls' soccer, girls' cross country, boys' cross country, and girls' swimming and diving teams to begin participating in full team practices on Sept. 21. The regular season for these teams is scheduled to get underway on Oct. 1, pending Connecticut's COVID metrics.

The CIAC's plan to play fall sports calls for teams to play a maximum of 12 regular-season contests between Oct. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 7, after which there would be a non-elimination postseason tournament experience where all teams would have a chance to play multiple games. The postseason would run for two weeks through Saturday, Nov. 21.

In its plan, the CIAC states that its position on spectator attendance is that fans should not be allowed at interscholastic contests or practices.

Thirty states in the U.S. including Connecticut are either modifying their fall sports seasons and/or moving certain sports to a different time of the school year. There will be no fall competition in six states and the District of Columbia. There are 14 states in which no changes have been made to the fall season.

There are currently 19 states that are modifying their football seasons. There are 17 states including Connecticut, as well as the District of the Columbia, in which no fall football is scheduled to be played.

As of press time, there were 55,527 people in Connecticut who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 4,492 fatalities. Connecticut is 33rd in the U.S. in the number of total cases and 14th in total deaths.